Monday, 9 April 2007


I always liked this trio, even if their repertoire was a bit limited and recycled seemingly endlessly. They were a soft route in to free jazz, bending and stretching structures and forms, generating excitement over long durations. In hindsight their music was truly exciting European Jazz, and given the music's origins in the difficult conditions found in the pre-Perestroika Soviet Union it had a poignant edge too. Some of the magic had gone by the time they made this recording, but this is still a cut above the average I hear today, and Tarasov remains a vastly under-rated drummer.

On a personal note, I was also pleased to see a small quote from the review was used by Leo Records in an advertisement placed in The Wire magazine...

15-Year Reunion

15-year Reunion; Umtza-Umtza.

Vyacheslav Ganelin (ky); Vladimir Chekasin (as, ts, v); Vladimir Tarasov (d).
Recorded 10/02.

If the next Ganelin Trio reunion is not for another 15 years, we Brits may well be voting for the same President of an enlarged European Union as the people of Vilnius, so fast is the pace of history these days. Pre-Perestroika of course this trio symbolised a dangerous Soviet avant-garde, their music only ever escaping the ‘Iron Curtain’ by the most clandestine of methods, and the enterprise of Leo Feigin, who set up his eponymous record label to present their music to the West. It is therefore only fitting that the re-union should also be released by Leo.

Recorded last year at the Frankfurt Book Fair, there is barley 40 minutes worth of music, though somehow it seems to have a greater impact than older works by the Trio precisely because of this brevity. Feigin declares in his liner notes that the room was so poor acoustically that he didn’t insist on an encore because he thought that the recording would be completely unusable. Surely any kind of encore would have been welcome regardless of the concerns of a potential record producer, given the 15 year silence? As it happens, the sound quality is actually better than many of the discs by the trio that he’s released in the past, and their music remains fresh, though largely unchanged.

The main (untitled) piece is a tightly structured suite-like improvisation, seemingly looser than it actually is, with the spotlight falling on each musician in turn. As close-knit a unit as ever, the sheer joy of making music still transcends any extra-musical factors in this trio’s appeal. There are, however, a few gripes. Ganelin’s synthesiser settings sound a tad dated, though thankfully the focus is mainly on his piano. I also sense that the music is a bit more static and lacking in humour than it used to be, possibly the result of playing less frequently together and simply being older and more experienced. ‘Reunion’ is recommended to anybody curious about what became of one of the most significant non-American jazz groups ever . It would also be a good place for Ganelin initiates to start on a rewarding journey in reverse back to ‘Catalogue: Live In East Germany’, the truly classic recording that started it all some 25 years ago.

Fred Grand
(Jazz Review, December 2003)

No comments: